Shame on you BBC

November 23, 2011 3:05 pm

I am writing to complain about the appalling coverage of the government’s proposals on employment law on the Today programme on Wednesday 23 November.

This was presented as a one sided view, lacked sufficient vigour in probing the government’s case, without any countervailing or opposing view or comment, and as such completely lacked balance.

In particular,

1. The summary of the programme on the BBC website is written up in a way that presents the government case as outlined by Vince Cable as ‘measures aimed at making it easier for businesses when taking on, managing and letting go of their staff.’ The use of the term ‘letting go’ is a euphemism used by businesses and business bosses (perhaps I should say leaders) to present dismissing people in a softer light – what is meant is ‘sacking’ ‘or ‘firing’. This could have been written up as ‘measures making it easier for bosses to fire workers and weakening the ability of workers to keep their job’ which would be an alternative approach and illustrates the lack of balance.

2. The Chief Political Correspondent, Gary O’Donoghue, referred to ‘trade union bosses and business leaders’, with the contrast between bosses and leaders, painting the former akin to the mafia, and the latter visionary and upright. Why not ‘trade union leaders and business bosses’, or ‘trade union and business leaders’? The tone of Mr O’Donoghue’s introduction to the following interview with Vince Cable was highly value laden.

3. The interview of Vince Cable by Evan Davis was extremely soft and failed to adequately test or question the government’s case for reform of employment laws. There was no question about what evidence the government had to propose that weakening rights for workers and employees would stimulate growth or employment. Equally an obvious line of questioning was to ask something along the line of ‘why when the economy is in recession, growth is flat, job insecurity rife and unemployment rising is the government proposing to make it easier for employers to sack workers?’

4. There was no alternative position or view presented, for example by the TUC or a trade union leader (perhaps I should say boss), and no detailed examination of the proposals. For example, the reason for having a consultation period of 90 days where more than 100 redundancy dismissals are contemplated is to provide the opportunity for alternatives to redundancy to be explored, thus reducing the number of workers who are fired (let go). Having protected conversations with workers which are not referable in tribunals is likely to lead to conflicts as to what was said, and indeed whether any conversation took place at all. None of the government proposals or positions were challenged, examined or explored.

The above illustrates a complete lack of balance in reporting of employment and employment relations issues. One reason for this is that the BBC now lacks labour correspondents with specialised and detailed knowledge of the world of work and employment. Journalists such as Nick Jones, Stephen Cape and others in the past would not have presented the piece in such a way, nor allowed government ministers to outline their position without being vigorously tested and probed.

Shame on you BBC – your once high journalistic standards are being debased.

Regards,

Peter Skyte

  • Guest

    this is becoming a constant….and one which (as ex Beeb ) I have challenged on a number of occasions recently, even resorting to phoning the news desk to challenge content during programmes. Once upon a time ( how long ago that sounds!) reporters were always required to ensure a balanced approach to fulfil the educate, inform and entertain commitment.  Now, time after time, BBC reports are increasingly avoiding the use of key pieces of information/events and using pejorative language ( think about the Humphreys TV prog on benefits  and the obliteration of events such as the March of the 8,000 Hardest Hit).  This seems to have become far more marked since Patten came into post where editorial meetings are using the ‘will it offend the Daily Mail’ baseline instead of seeking to outline the truth. I have a mug which says Proud of the BBC ~ I don’t tend to use it these days ~ I really do not want to support an organisation which seems to have become an agent of propoganda.

  • Anonymous

    I’m a great fan/supporter of the BBC, but agree biased coverage on this;
    at times appears very pro government line and unquestioning/unchallenging.

    It’s vital we hear all sides to this debate, especially from those directly involved.

    I think this is an excellent letter, and extremely compelling.

    Jo

  • Guest

    This might be more useful if it were, oh I don’t know, posted to the BBC?

    Or somewhere people other than those who agree with you could see it?

    Just a thought….

    • Anonymous

      It was also sent to the BBC

      • http://profiles.google.com/roger.f.mccarthy Roger McCarthy

        I’d also like to complain – who did you send it to the producers of the show or just the BBC complaints department?

        • AlanGiles

          Not being pedantic, but with Today the editor of the show is the person to contact, not the producer. You could also send a complaint to Roger Bolton at the “Feedback” programme (this is transmitted on Fridays 1630-1700 with a repeat on Sunday 2000-2030. Mr Bolton often gets the editor of programmes like Today to answer critisism, though it is fair to say they trot out  the usual cliches, Mr Bolton challenges their answers quite robustly.

  • http://twitter.com/Lewishamdreamer Jason

    I couldn’t agree more. Their coverage on this has been supine at best, supportive of the Tories at worst.

    http://therightisalwayswrong.wordpress.com

  • http://twitter.com/SirTrevSkint who goes home

    And how many times do the BBC pump out socialist drivel on show after show with nothing but socialist commentators. The BBC simply read out the Guardian day after day.

    The BBC and Labour + Unions are the same thing as you lefties know.

    • Guest

      your comments are not based on tracking of evidence. The Guardian has tackled stories that are only being picked up by Channel 4 – in particular the pending plight of the NHS. The BBC is ignoring the situation of more and more sections of our society and the huge risks which legislation currently passing through Parliament brings. Such policies will consign the elderly and the sick to lives of destitution and lack of care – try reading the Dilnot report for instance, which the government are chosing to bin, but which could set up social care properly for decades to come.  BBC listeners have the right to hear about this – check out the C4 top stories this week to see the difference. 

    • AndyT

      Socialist commentators like Andrew Neil, Nick Robinson & John Humphrys you mean? 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Graeme-Hancocks/1156294498 Graeme Hancocks

      What drivel.

    • Lewisjohnston

      Typical right-wing whinging. Anything less extreme than the Mail/Express/Sun/News of the World or any other rag that pumps out lies on your behalf is “socialist drivel”. I’m sick of this kind of self-pity, the reason your principles might be questioned on the BBC is not because “they’re out to get you”, its because you have to allow them to be subjected to scrutiny like anyone else, and not expect them to be simply accepted on face value (although a sense of entitlement to impose their will unopposed is deeply ingrained in right-wing “thinking”, and I use that word in the loosest possible sense).

    • http://twitter.com/Newsbot9 Newsbot9

       Nice conspiracy theory you have there.

    • UKHamlet

      WHOGOESHOME: This simply doesn’t happen. The BBC is consistent in framing the debate to denigrate socialists and trade unionists while portraying business leaders as above reproach. Sometimes I’m actually surprised at how openly hostile they are to Trade Unionists, especially when the mask slips and the attack dogs are let loose. The characterisation of the BBC as a left-wing organisation simply won’t wash any more – it isn’t and never has been. It rarely gives airtime to republican sentiments, despite over a quarter of the population supporting such a position, it nearly always portrays Trade Unionists as the enemy and unswervingly suports the status quo. You’re not folling anyone and neither are the rest of the astroturfers who pollute the internet.

  • http://twitter.com/nosliWtrautS Stuart Wilson

    Calling someone a ‘boss’ is akin to calling them a member of the mafia?!?  Come off it.  It’s hyperbole like that which debases the arguments of the left, seen particularly recently with regards to the nonsense spouted by trade unions over public sector pensions.  The irony of an article accusing the BBC of being ‘right wing’ is priceless.  You couldn’t make it up.  Oh hang on, you just have…

    • Anonymous

      Poor thing lonely on the Tories site…..

    • Lewisjohnston

      I’m afraid that’s completely missing the point Stuart. In fact trade union leaders are always presented as wielding excessive and unreasonable power, and using the term “boss” to describe them is a symptom of this intrinsic assumption. If it was a one-off I might agree that the article is hyperbolic, but this kind of terminology is widespread (another example is trade union “baron”). If it doesn’t matter, then why is it always used?

      Actually the article doesn’t accuse the BBC of being right-wing, or having any other political position for that matter. What is being highlighted is the lack of journalistic rigour. You also imply that the BBC is inherently biased to the left. This is utter nonsense, and is usually spouted by right-wingers who cnnot tolerate any criticism, expect the playing-field to be loaded in their favour and for whom Fox is an unbiased source. The balanced approach of the BBC only appear “left-wing” because it exists in a climate where most media and print are massively biased to the right. Compared to that, of course balanced reporting is further to the left.

    • Anonymous

      Stuart – no wonder Britain is sliding towards the low end of mediocrity when so many amongst our population display such naivety and a complete lack of awareness of the grip that established vested interests have over the political and economic debate in Britain. 

      Keep believing establishment lines like: cheap flexible workforce + freeing super rich ‘entrepreneurs’ to “create wealth” = prosperity; and we will certainly stay down there with all the other dumbed down, bad tempered, unequal rich elite managed states. Britain needs to ditch the timid, unimaginative conservative straight jacket and look beyond the establishment agenda.

      • Ian

        what a fantastic post and don;t the tories learn form examples close to us, in Germany ?

        where workers get a say on the works council 

        where management and workers do their best together to get the highest quality 

        where productivity is at it’s highest because they all want the same thing a successful company and a share in it. 

        It is soul destroying to listen to Cable make it  a us and them situation where workers can be undermined in secret with no discourse to law

  • http://profiles.google.com/roger.f.mccarthy Roger McCarthy

    The BBC hierarchy include some of the cleverest and best-connected observers of UK politics and know that Labour’s chances of ever forming an effective government again are becoming more and more remote each day. 

    The Tories hold their purse strings and will likely continue to do so for decades and have already shown themselves more than willing to punish the BBC immediately and directly for opposition. 

    So really what do you expect – self sacrificing heroism from people who are terrified for their jobs and pensions? 

  • Jason Green

    I have had nothing but contempt for the BBC for many years now. The way in which they gleefully joined in with the right-wing press, with their tabloidesque  personal denigration of Gordon Brown reinforced that contempt. The idea that the BBC is controlled by some Leftist Marxist group-think is laughable. If anything, the group-think is ‘soft Tory’ aka LibDem. Try listening to BBC 5Live. In particular Shelagh Fogarty. Her ‘Wednesday at Westminster’ is truly shocking. What with her ‘to be fair to the government’ and ‘the government would say’ riposte  to any Labour criticism of government policy, even though  there are two MPs from the governing parties and only the one Labour MP on the panel. Added to that we also have John Pienaar, the BBC’s official LibDem correspondent. Whilst listening you have to constantly remind yourself that it is the National broadcaster
    you are listening to, not the state sanctioned broadcaster.

    Listen to any discussion, be it immigrants, welfare, employment laws, social policy, the economy, you name it, and the language used by the BBC is strikingly similar to that used by the government. The Labour comms team really need to get to grips with this. It’s bad enough being in government and having the National broadcaster not giving you a fair hearing, for an opposition that has virtually no friends in ‘Fleet St’ it could prove fatal.

  • http://twitter.com/jayuux jason green

    I have had nothing but contempt for the BBC for many years now. The way
    in which they gleefully joined in with the right-wing press, with their
    tabloidesque  personal denigration of Gordon Brown reinforced that
    contempt. The idea that the BBC is controlled by some Leftist Marxist
    group-think is laughable. If anything, the group-think is ‘soft Tory’
    aka LibDem. Try listening to BBC 5Live. In particular Shelagh Fogarty.
    Her ‘Wednesday at Westminster’ is truly shocking. What with her ‘to be
    fair to the government’ and ‘the government would say’ riposte  to any
    Labour criticism of government policy, even though  there are two MPs
    from the governing parties and only the one Labour MP on the panel.
    Added to that we also have John Pienaar, the BBC’s official LibDem
    correspondent. Whilst listening you have to constantly remind yourself
    that it is the National broadcaster

    you are listening to, not the state sanctioned broadcaster.

    Listen to any discussion, be it immigrants, welfare, employment laws,
    social policy, the economy, you name it, and the language used by the
    BBC is strikingly similar to that used by the government. The Labour
    comms team really need to get to grips with this. It’s bad enough being
    in government and having the National broadcaster not giving you a fair
    hearing, for an opposition that has virtually no friends in ‘Fleet St’
    it could prove fatal.

    • Anonymous

      Yep agree with you totally…..

    • AndyT

      Have to agree with you about BBC 5Live. It’s turning into a cross between the Daily Mail & the Jeremy Kyle show. Some of the presenters seem to have given up any pretence of impartiality. 

  • Anonymous

    We whom have disabilities have said the same thing about Labour and the BBC, use of terms like scroungers, work  shy, shirkers, cheats, low life.

    Life is a well?  we know what it is…. Opposition stinks does it not so does being disabled…

  • Stormin’

    Unfortunately, the BBC these days has given up on all pretence at impartiality and more often than not seems to act as a mouthpiece for the Tories. The style of interviewing of Government Ministers, compared to that of Labour spokespeople, could hardly be greater.
    The reason? The BBC has never forgiven Labour for the aftermath of the Hutton inquiry and for not granting the licence fee settlement it had hoped for at the time. It is now living in fear of the Tories because of what they may do to the BBC in the future. Having already seriously curtailed the BBC’s budget, it is obvious the Tories want to go further and gradually weaken the BBC in favour of Murdoch and the like. The phone-hacking scandal has thankfully put that prospect to one side for the moment, but it is impossible to trust Cameron who just like the majority of Tories cannot stand anything in the public sector that is successful. It’s only a shame that the BBC is being so cowardly and not standing up for what the vast majority of people in this country value as a major influence for objectivity, high standards, innovation and professionalism.

  • Anonymous

    This was presented as a one sided view, lacked sufficient vigour in probing the government’s case, without any countervailing or opposing view or comment, and as such completely lacked balance.

    I have listened to the BBC for all my adult life.
    Occasionally they get it wrong.
    Occasionally they are biased.. Indeed for 17 years at least they admitted they were institutionally biased.. I heard zero complaints at the time from the Labour Party when it was quite clear.

    I suspect reading your complaint, you are forgetting which Party is in Government. The Government announcements of policy always have precedence because they are the Government…

    And I suspect the BBC might just be indulging in a little revenge for their spat with a certain Mr Campbell over Iraq. Subsequent events proved the BBC and their reporter were correct…and the then Government were lying..  

    • Kris

      I agree the BBC tends to follow the government line and did so particularly when T Blair was in power (less so for Brown as the media had got in to a bit of a feeding frenzy by then). It is a symptom of especially newly elected governments. I do think it has got the tendency for weak questioning has got worse and worse. Think this may be ministers refusing to go on if they are asked anything hard!

      BBC is always pretty hard on trade union reps and pretty easy on bankers! There may be a ‘liberal’ bias but I don’t think this is ‘Leftwing’ in the old school economic sense more in the US progressive-guardian reading elite liberal sense

      • AlanGiles

        Even a casual glance at some BBC output shows that they do tend to try to do some of the governments bidding for them.

        Just the title of a trashy morning show “Benefit Saints and Sinners” with  a presenter who looks and sounds like an extra from Eastenders (Dominic Littlewood). The main emphasis being on the “sinners”. Especially if they happen to be “foreigners”, secret filming, the judgemental Littlewoods shrill voice-over like a “Sun” columnist

        Earlier this week in the London area “Inside Out”, in which three groups who dreaded the building of the Olympics park: an enviromentalist, a junior school and a small business.

        Now they are all true believers: the school children have really enjoyed having a tunnel dug right under their school, and all the mud and noise that went with it, the enviromentalist thinks levelling the trees and closing parts of the river has really improved the area and the business was able to move from it’s home in Stratford to a custom built unit in Enfield.

        So all was sweetness and light. No mention was made of the many people who were forced to move, small businesses that went under because the pittance paid to them under the Compulsory Purchase Orders wasn’t enough to find new premises in the home area where, thanks to the Olympics the prices have rocketted.

        I think it fair to say, as Kris suggests, the BBC try to ingratiate themselves with the government of the day – they did so with Blair and they do so now.

  • Ian

    so to confirm, the Tory trolls believe it is right for a boss it slag io an employeee in private, it could be personal, racist, homophobic or sexist and nothing to do with their job and this could not be used in evidence.

    does any LD really believe this should be presented as party policy ? Is that not against all the party stands for ?

    • http://twitter.com/Newsbot9 Newsbot9

       Waste of breath, Ian. Really.

  • Matt

    Perhaps perversely I am pleased if they occasionally show a bit of bias against us. Most BBC staff are Labour supporters and they have shown it so obviously for so long that I have become worried that there will be a right-wing backlash and the BBC which i love would be abolished or damaged. This is less likely to happen if they sometimes stray to the right however hard it may be to take.

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  • Merrick

    Unions have bosses but businesses have leaders, for the same reason that in a dispute employers offer a settlement while employees demand one.

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  • http://twitter.com/tommy5dollar Tommy Long

    What a ridiculous article… I personally believe the BBC is pretty well balanced but it does tend to sit slightly left of centre.

    What you’re actually complaining about in this article is them being neutral and not biased towards your position.

  • Martin Yuille

    Nice one Peter.

    Now take a pop at Newsnight’s Paxman. In his dotage, he has fallen of his chairman’s perch and almost invariably takes the side of some swivel-eyed monetarist (eg  Moulton last night) or foul-mouthed europhobe (eg Peter Oborne a week or two ago).

  • Matt

    It was a dreadully biased and partial report – and this complaint is fully justified.

  • http://twitter.com/richardbrennan richardbrennan

    The BBC hasn’t just failed in its coverage of employment law. It has recently produced programmes giving a grossly unfair picture of people on sickness benefits, implying a large number were faking. The truth is sickness benefit fraud is very low. The

  • Steve

    Ignore the trolls, a serious point is made in the letetr.  Trade union ‘bosses’ has been the currency on virtually every news programme, virtually all questions to TUs are about the impact and responsibility of strikes and never about the issue provoking them or the Government’s stance.

    On top of recent BBC ‘documentaries’ like Humphreys on welfare, Panorama on scroungers and the rest, the BBC knows which side it’s bread is buttered and they’re desperate to avoid falling out with Cameron and suffering more cuts.  There is a BBC complaints website but it looks like it’s used mainly by Daily Mail readers and perhaps LabourList could co-ordinate complaints on points like this.

  • Peter Benson

    Privatise the BBC.I am sick of paying a licence fee just for the rubbish the BBC put out.Make it pay its own way like every other channel.If I don’t want Sky,which I don’t I don’t receive it.If I don’t watch BBC I am still forced to pay.I don’t want the BBC nor do I want to pay for it.
    It always sides with the Establishment.

  • Anonymous

    Hear hear! Well said Peter. Please post their response.

  • http://twitter.com/garypepworth Citizen Pepworth

    An example of where the BBC does choose to use its words carefully is in relation to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. While her parents constantly refer (despite any evidence) to their daughter having been ‘abducted’, the BBC always refers to her having ‘disappeared’ which is a far more objective term. Don’t let anyone tell you that their choice of language is not considered.

  • Sarah Veale

    Well said Peter,

    Apparently VC would only do interviews on his own – same happened on BBC Breakfast. Presumably he doesn’t have sufficient confidence in his arguments – indeed that became obvious at the point where he acknowledged that only 6% of businesses put employment regulation at the top of their list of current concerns – that information came from a survey recently conducted by his own department. The BBC should have said that he would not appear with an opponent and should have contacted the TUC for some background information with which to challenge him. Nicky Campbell sneaked me into his Radio 5 interview the same morning but that is not the same as having a properly structured debate on the Today programme, as you say.

    Sarah Veale, Head, Equality and Employment Rights Department, TUC

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